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 Post subject: Laine's quick day visit to KNP : 13 Jan 07
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:10 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 4:12 pm
Posts: 519
Location: what does spinning mean? :-|
Hi all,

Like I said last week, I decided to give Kruger a quick little day visit on Saturday. We left Machadadorp around 3 am and drove through to Malelane Gate. Arrived reasonably early and stopped on the bridge, of course. First spot was a Pied Kingfisher tenderizing his breakfast on a branch very close to us. We decided to drive up to Afsaal, have some breakfast there then horseshoe around via Skukuza to Crocodile Bridge.

The spotting began with earnest….Elephant, Impala, Zebra, Wildebeest, Klipspringer, Baboon Warthog, Dwarf Mongoose, Buffalo etc. Saw an unusual sight near Afsaal – a huge python in the water that had just killed its breakfast, it was turning and twisting in the water around something unidentifiable and it was massive!! Saw about 5 White Rhino in a span of 200 or so metres on both sides of the road just before Afsaal and one was so close I think it was also trying to find the mysterious Scops Owl in the picnic area… or maybe ordering that very tasty much needed coffee I too ordered….

After eating to our hearts’ content, we proceeded onwards….. on the H3, just before the turn off to the H1 –1 we came across a very rare sighting indeed. We spotted hundreds of vulture circling above and as we got closer they literally blanketed the trees. There was also some spotted hyena lingering around and with heads covered in blood and then, there it was, either a dead rhino or a small elephant (still debating)… what was unusual, however, was the Kruger Staff, Vets and Rangers surrounding the body. The carcass was possibly around 50 or so metres into the bush and they were doing various tests on the carcass (which was very very fresh). They took various flesh samples and proceeded to slice and dice the body into a few chunky pieces. I am dying to know what happened and why they were so concerned about the death of this rhino/ellie. Please could somebody send my query on to a guru or two. Lol

After watching that for a while we moved on. Again got the usual sightings. Then just before Nkhulu, came across a couple of cars and bingo….. A leopard. Having what appeared to be the comfiest siesta I’ve seen in a while. The whirring of cameras and the cars maneuvering must have annoyed our big boy, he got up stretched, yawned, gave us a withering look and then jumped out the tree and into the bush.

As we proceeded, we decided at the last minute to take the Gomondwane Loop. We were desperately trying to get our Big 5. Instead we got another two unusual sightings… Black Rhino and not 10 minutes later a Honey badger. I didn’t mind not seeing the lion. I thought that made up for it in tenfold!! Lol

Then before I knew it, it was time to exit Crocodile Bridge. It was a hot hot blistering hot but lovely day!! Roll around 23rd Feb!! 8) 8)

Other spots: Warthog (and a helluva lot of those!! What are they feeding those guys? I have never seen so many babies before!!)
Crocodiles
Hippo
Reedbuck
V. Monkeys
Waterbuck
Bushbuck


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 Post subject: Rhino carcass
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:36 am 
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Guru
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Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:18 am
Posts: 476
Location: Skukuza
Dear Forumites

When we are not sure of why "high value" species die, we naturally want to know why. The rhino carcass on that day was a classic example of this.

If a carcass is seen or reported, the first duty is to remove the horn. The way we see it, if we don't remove the horn, then somebody else will. The same action will happen if an elephant carcass is found - the tusks are taken away almost immediately.

Rangers and members of our Veterinary Wildlife Services (VWS) got to the scene and it was not readily apparent what had caused the rhino to die. There were also no tracks or signs of other human activity and the horn was still intact so that ruled out poaching.

The other cause for concern was disease. Now this is why samples of various parts of the rhino would have been taken. Some diseases are found in glands, others are found in bone marrow and various other parts of the body. Most of these body parts are sent away (usually to Onderstepoort in Pretoria) for extensive testing. In effect, the vets were doing a post mortem on the carcass (only, with wildlife medicine, you cannot do a pm in a controlled environment like a theatre so we are more or less forced to do it in the open!).

Regarding the pm and the various tests done, I am sure the veterinary surgeon members of the forum will be able to expand on this. :)

Predators had already stripped away large portions of the body by the time our people had got there so it was difficult to ascertain what had caused the heart to stop pumping, but the other samples were taken and are currently being tested.

But it is our strong opinion (even at this early stage) that the rhino was involved in a fight, probably for territory or females with another rhino bull. These fights often end in death for one of the combatants and there were a few tell-tale scrapes and gashes on the carcass which indicate some sort of a struggle. Although we consider this as a "natural cause", we are getting more and more reports of this as the rhino population in the south steadily gets larger and bull territories start "bumping" each other.

The hands-on solution is to either move rhinos north (as we have done - often) or to other reserves (either our own, eg Marakele, Mapungubwe etc, or auction them off to other game farms).

I hope this explains why our staff were there and what they were doing.

Incidentally, Laine, you are incredibly lucky to have sighted black rhino. My black rhino sightings are few and far between and I know it doesn't happen every day. A colleague and friend of mine - a camp duty manager from Mopani - who has worked in the KNP for about 15-odd years, only saw her first black rhino last year!

Kind regards
KNP Spokesman

_________________
Kruger National Park
110 Years of Conservation Success - Now isn't that worthy of a Celebration!


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 Post subject: A few more facts ...
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:47 am 
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Guru
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Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:18 am
Posts: 476
Location: Skukuza
Hi Everyone (Specificially Laine)

I spoke to one of the vets again yesterday and he confirmed it, it was definitely a fight between two bulls that caused the death of the bull you saw.

[I would recommend the younger or more sensitive forumites should perhaps avoid reading this post.]

He told me he can't find any diseases or anything that might have caused it. Admittedly, he couldn't test many of the organs because of the work of predators, but the lung and liver were both there and neither showed any of the tell tale signs of disease.

What he did tell me which I find interesting was that the rhino's teeth were pretty much ground down to the gum level - suggesting that this was a very old animal. We speculate that what might have happened was he was challenged by a younger, stronger and more aggressive bull. There were scratches and other injuries on the forelegs and chest area, which suggest a good fight.

When the fight eventually ended for the old bull, he turned around to try and run away and the aggressor gave him a parting gesture, up the "you-know-where". This would have caused massive internal injuries and it wouldn't be long before the rhino would have lost the ability to move. He probably collapsed and predators like hyena would have gone to work on him (they would have been watching him, having picked up the scent of the injury).

KNP rangers did find three hyenas and plenty of vultures (of all species) on the scene when they got there on Saturday morning and there was clear evidence that the hyena's opened up the carcass by stripped away the skin and breaking the bones. This would have let specifically the white-backed vultures into the carcass itself.

The head has been removed from the carcass and was brought to Skukuza for further testing and research. Our experts will be able to guage a more accurate estimate of the age when they see the jaw and teeth. (I'll keep my eyes and ears open for any exact details ...)

As previously mentioned, the rhino horn was handed over to the ranger responsible for that area who, in turn, would have handed it over to our animal products store (after all details are recorded, of course).

The rest of the carcass would have been left to the hyenas, vultures, scavengers and insects that will eventually break down the carcass. Traces of this carcass will still be there for a while though, but eventually it will disappear. Nutrients will go back into the ground and the circle of life will continue.

Our official records will show that this animal died of "natural causes".

Unfortunately that is the rule of nature, the survival of the fittest. The old, lame and sick often pay the ultimate price for the survival of the young, fit and healthy.

Kind regards
KNP Spokesman

_________________
Kruger National Park
110 Years of Conservation Success - Now isn't that worthy of a Celebration!


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